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My Piercings Give People Something to Stare At

I was 16 when my mother took me — after weeks of endless harassment — to get my very first facial piercing: my right nostril. I already had my ears done and thought getting my nose pierced would be cute, subtle, and slightly edgy. I was a little worried about the pain, but as soon as I entered the piercing parlor, I knew that there was no point in turning back. And honestly, I’m so glad I didn’t.

My mom thought getting my nose done was innocent enough, but ignored my subsequent requests for more piercings. I knew as soon as I turned 18, I would collect quite a few of them. And over the next decade, I somehow managed to accumulate a total of seven body piercings (not including the five I wear in each ear): a lip ring, two nose rings, a Monroe, a belly button ring, and two surface chest piercings. From the first time the needle permeated my skin through the seemingly endless healing process, the incredible creative agency I felt when it came to my piercings was exhilarating. And as a 6-foot-tall black woman, the pride and power I feel over my body is complex, but extremely important.

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Black women constantly oscillate between being invisible and hyper-visible daily. When we are invisible, we aesthetically minimize our blackness to appease the dominant and pervasive narrative of white beauty. Downplaying or erasing physical blackness includes everything from hair straightening to skin bleaching — and this Eurocentric mindset has become dangerously embedded in the black community. The other side is hyper-visibility, when our bodies — our hair, our skin color, our facial features — are discussed, dissected, feared, ridiculed, and replicated. In a culture where there is so much social currency invested in black women not loving themselves, embracing and being proud of who I am is often viewed as a radical act.

My piercings represent the confidence and pride I feel about my own hyper-visibility, although I didn’t realize how much they meant to me until I considered getting rid of them as my 30th birthday approached. For me, turning 30 meant taking time to reflect on my personal and professional accomplishments, the people around me, and the goals I had set in place. But I found myself confused by what it meant to look like a 30-year-old. If it was, in fact, the definitive age to come into adulthood, would I have to sacrifice my piercings in order to look the part?

My physical appearance has always been a source of contention for everyone from complete strangers to family members. For some reason, people feel the need to frequently provide unwarranted commentary about how I look. From remarks on my height to guessing my weight to discussing my skin tone, my body and the space it occupies has always been a catalyst for conversation that I never been comfortable with. For years, I worked hard not only to embrace it, but to reclaim it. Getting body piercings, along with shaving my head, were and are extremely symbolic of a freedom that I never really knew that black women could have, one that rejects the notion of one-dimensional beauty that is exclusively centered on whiteness and proximity to whiteness. Society will always place the onus of assimilation on the heads of black women, and it is up to us to continue to fight against it.

And so not only did I decide to keep all of my piercings, a few weeks after my birthday, I got another one: a septum. I tried to be as modest as I could be when I selected the ring (I asked for the smallest one possible). It was done on a whim; very little thought was put into the actual piercing itself. However, beyond the painful two-month healing process (whenever I wiped my nose, it felt like it was on fire), there weren’t any negative consequences. I now work in liberal environments where my supervisors don't care if I'm pierced; several of my friends already thought I’d had my septum done. That temporary feeling of insecurity was just that: temporary.

Besides, I figure that if people are going to stare, I might as well give them something to look at. Candace McDuffie, contributing writer

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Deal of the Day

Now's the time to snag a few trendy add-ons for your spring wardrobe: Missguided is offering 50% off sitewide (excluding sale) with the code RACKED50. This striped midi shirtdress is $16, this knit gray bodysuit is $17.50, and these rose gold slip-ons are $21. There’s a lot to sort through over there, so do yourself a favor and break it down by occasion on the sidebar.

Send this deal to your friends! 

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In the News
So Long, Trump Models 👋

Donald Trump’s namesake modeling agency is shutting down, according to reports from the New York Post and Mother Jones. Though the Trump Models site is still live, many of the women listed on it, like Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Mia Kang and Alexander Wang favorite Katie Moore, have either found new representation or deleted any mention of it from their Instagram bios, where most models list their agency information. It’s little surprise that this wing of the Trump Organization would fizzle out: Many designers took openly anti-Trump stances at New York Fashion Week, making the affiliation a clear career liability for models and agents. A former Trump Models employee who recently left to start his own agency told Refinery29 that models who worked with Trump were frequently hassled on set for their professional ties to the president.

While this gives competitors the opportunity to sign Trump Models’ biggest names, its closing isn’t of huge consequence to the fashion industry. Lately, Trump Models has repped a handful of breakout models as well as older superstars like Pat Cleveland, Tatjana Patitz, and Ali MacGraw, but it isn’t nearly the powerhouse that agencies like IMG (Karlie Kloss, Gigi and Bella Hadid) or The Society (Kendall Jenner, Willow Smith) are. —Eliza Brooke, senior reporter

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Feature
Uniqlo Wants to Be America’s Perfect Fit
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Like rogue national park accounts, the Merriam-Webster dictionary, and Teen Vogue, Uniqlo recently enjoyed its time as a momentary liberal icon. The company’s perceived “wokeness” went up tenfold when when Tadashi Yanai, president of Uniqlo’s parent company, Fast Retailing, told Trump to “shove it.” Yanai was celebrated for coming back against the administration’s proposed tax on imports and threatening to pull Uniqlo stores from the States if the policy is put into law.

Seen through nonpartisan glasses, though, this feels simply like a coldly calculated business move. “We would not be able to make really good products [in the US] at costs that are beneficial to customers," Yanai told a Japanese newspaper. "It would become meaningless to do business in the US." This isn’t a “threat” to punish the president. It’s a man being realistic.

While Uniqlo has thrived in cities, the store hasn’t caught on in the rest of the US — and even where the brand is popular, the company has seen what happens when it tries to raise prices.

Customers balked after Uniqlo upped retail prices in 2015, and the company vowed its “lowest prices” would come back just a year later, in May of 2016. Yanai understands that if faced with a border tax, Uniqlo loses its most powerful customer proposition: value. Retreating from the US would be a huge sacrifice, though. Uniqlo has tried to make inroads in the States for over a decade, and not doing business in the US would mean waving a white flag on its mission to be the largest retailer in the world.

Keep reading >>
Shopping
Heading to a Spring Wedding? We Picked Out 11 Dresses for You
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If you’ve ever been part of a wedding party, then you probably know the relief of not being in a wedding party. Shopping for something to wear as a civilian guest — and not having to drop big bucks on a bridesmaid dress you know you’ll never wear again (even though you tell yourself you can, and will!) — is a pretty nice situation to find yourself in. But that isn’t to say it’s easy.

You still have to land on an outfit that strikes the right the balance of looking good without over-shining the bride; on top of that, there’s probably a dress code to contend with. (What does dressy casual mean, exactly?)

Another huge piece of the puzzle is budget. But since the ball is really in your court, you’ve got every opportunity to find something you’ll actually want to wear again — which is probably the best reason to justify a splurge on something you really love.

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